“If you never did .. you should.
These things are fun .. and fun is good” ~ Dr. Seuss
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Today, the final installment in a three-part series: my interview with Pinch of Yum's Lindsay Ostrom. The first of a new series here at The Veggies, one devoted to people living lives filled with creativity.
In Part I – we chatted about favorite cookbooks, her blogging philosophy, and the hustle.
Part II – was filled with advice for people just getting started, those who've been at it a while, and everywhere in between
Part III will prove especially interesting for those wondering, “How in the world does she take such beautiful photos?” She shares her workflow, camera settings, where she turns for inspiration ..
and much, much more
When did you start paying attention to who your audience was?
Pretty early on. In fact, it's something we're always thinking about. “Who's reading this stuff? Who am I speaking to as I'm writing these posts?” In the beginning, we knew almost every person who visited the site, but as we've gotten bigger, it's determined less by who leaves a comment or who likes it on Facebook, and instead by gathering information from the audience. This could be through polls, surveys, or paying closer attention to the people who engage on social media. The concept is the same ..
but on a much bigger scale.
When did you start to be intentional about Pinch of Yum's overall style?
I started thinking seriously about it two years ago. Certainly, it had been on my mind, but not in a cohesive way. I'd been focusing instead on a photo-by-photo basis. All of that changed with our latest site re-design. Now several images were featured side-by-side on the main page, and I realized a lot of the pictures didn't look very good together. It forced me to start thinking about things I could do visually, to create consistency across the blog, and really hone the overall style. The trick being, even if I'm changing things up, what are specific things that will stay the same; make my photos recognizable, and still fall in line with our core values?
When I'm crafting a post I always have someone specific mind who I'm writing to. Is it the same for you?
Not necessarily. Identifying an avatar is something we talk about in the Styling and Brand Workshop. For Pinch of Yum, we've done some work around it and have a general sense of who our audience is, even if we don't have a name. I've also found that it depends on the platform because different platforms draw different people. When I'm on Instagram, I'm writing to someone different from when I'm on Facebook.
What's a typical workday like?
My days are directed, in part, by the team. For example, my photo shoot assistant (the hands in a lot of my photos) is in the office Tuesday – Thursday. Therefore Mondays are office days. Tuesday – Thursday I'm at the studio cooking, taking pictures, and putting posts together. Fridays I'm wrapping things up for the week. There are some tasks though that I do make time for every day, like devoting an hour to email and responding to comments
What's the life cycle of a Pinch of Yum recipe post?
Once I have an idea for a recipe, I'll make it for the first time at home. If we like it well enough, I'll schedule it on the studio's calendar. The day of the shoot we'll make the recipe again and take pictures. From there, I'll sift through the photos, narrowing them down from 75 – 100 to 5- 10 that will be processed. The recipe's post will go live very soon after. I'm really not cooking much in advance, except for sponsored posts, which need to be submitted ahead of time for review
How long does a photo shoot take?
About an hour (if the food is made and ready to go). In total, I'll spend four to six hours making the recipe, taking and editing the photos
Any tips for streamlining the process?
I like to have a few styling ideas in mind before I start. For example, if I'm shooting a casserole, I'll often go to Google images and search for generic casseroles. They'll give me some general ideas of what I like in terms of the format. It's helpful to see other images because say I like (or don't like) the look of a few specks of green on top of my tomato soup. Knowing this ahead of time will save me a step
I don't want to reinvent the wheel when it comes to props, and I'm not too worried about using the same things each time. I always use the same fork and spoon, along with a handful of bowls that I love. I also limit myself to only a few background boards and vary them based upon the season. In the winter, it might be marble and/or wood. In the summer, marble and/or teal (ps: If you've ever wondered, “Where can I buy a speckled bowl just like Lindsay's?” At her father-in-law's online pottery store)
During each recipe's photo shoot, I limit myself to a series of five shots (or compositions). If I don't, I could keep going forever and take far too much time. With those five shots, I'm confident I'll have options however I'd like to use them. They are:
Front or 3/4 angle (Pinterest, Foodgawker, etc)
Two ingredients/process shots
If you could invest in only one prop what would it be?
A good background
How many recipes do you photograph in a day?
I limit myself to only one. If I do more than that it starts to feel stressful, or I get tired. In either case, I know I've lost some of my creativity.
I should also mention videos. This is a piece I've stepped away from and handed to the team. They do at most two per day with a goal of 3-4 per week.
Fun technical trivia
What camera and lenses do you use? A Canon 6D camera body. T he Canon 50 mm 1.4 lens is my tried and true for food photography. The Canon 100 mm 2.8 macro lens is the one I use for super dramatic close-up shots. (ps: Other equipment and resources Lindsay recommends for food bloggers can be found here)
Raw or jpg? Raw
Tripod? No tripod; I like to move with my camera
Natural vs Artificial Light? Natural, with either side or backlighting
Typical Camera Settings? 2.8 Aperture / 200 ISO / 60 shutter speed (rarely does my shutter speed go above 200)
Lightroom or Photoshop? Lightroom, with one exception; Photoshop has a better tool for correcting white balance.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
As you look back through the archives .. do you ever have the urge to update older posts?
I see the blog as a food journal – a reflection of what I'm making and eating at a certain time in my life. I feel comfortable enough with the idea that people will look at my current posts and see what they look like. That way, when they're visiting an older post, they'll think, “This is where she was four years ago.”
That being said, occasionally, I do go back. If it's a recipe that I really love and make a lot or one I'd like to promote again. In those cases, I will go back, re-photograph, and re-publish. In general, I approach the blog, not as a site that needs to be perfect, but more as an ongoing recipe diary that will change and develop over time
Thank you so much, Lindsay!
A Pinch of Yum recipe I've back to, time and time again .. BBQ Chicken Sweet Potato Pizza. A reminder of the days the kids were little, and I'd check stacks of Pillsbury cookbooks out from the library
BBQ chicken pizza quickly became a favorite
Over the years the recipe has matured. Today I make my own crust, mozzarella has been replaced with smoked gouda, and wisps of green are scattered across the top. It's hard to resist the tang of the bbq sauce and the smoothness of the gouda
What's stayed the same? It's an easy, delicious, and fast weeknight dinner.
— — —
~ Adapted from Pillsbury
Smoky BBQ Chicken Pizza
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 large boneless chicken breast halves
- ½ cup smoky-flavored bbq sauce (or bbq sauce of choice)
- fine grain sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
- strong pinch of garlic powder
- 8 oz smoked Gouda cheese, coarsely shredded
- One 16 oz pizza crust
- ¾ cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1 green onion, chopped
- pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- For Serving optional
- red pepper flakes
- cilantro, chopped fine
- fresh arugula (or any other green)
- Position rack in center of oven. Place large baking sheet on rack and preheat the oven to 450° F.
- Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat.
- Season chicken with sea salt, pepper, and a strong pinch of garlic powder
- Add chicken to skillet and sauté until just cooked through (~ 5 minutes per side). Transfer the chicken to plate and let it rest for 5 minutes or so
- Cut the chicken crosswise into 1/3 inch-wide slices.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to medium bowl. Toss with ¼ cup barbecue sauce.
- Spread half of the cheese on pizza crust.
- Arrange the chicken slices on crust, spacing them evenly.
- Spoon any remaining barbecue sauce from bowl over them.
- Sprinkle red onion over chicken. Drizzle with remaining ¼ cup barbecue sauce.
- Sprinkle remaining cheese and green onion over.
- Transfer pizza to hot baking sheet. Bake until the bottom of crust is crisp and cheese on top melts (~ 13-15 min)
- Let pizza stand 5 minutes before serving